St Mary Mags, as it is affectionately known, is widely recognised as George Edmund Street’s masterpiece in London, built while he was working on the Royal Courts of Justice. It's Grade I and was a favourite of Betjeman’s but in the later 20th century it fell into decay and was placed on the 'heritage at risk' register.
The church has been transformed into a community and heritage hub serving one of the most religiously and culturally diverse wards in London, with the help of £75,000 funding from Benefact Trust.
The undercroft, which was a film set for Les Miserables and once graced by Australian actor Hugh Jackman, will now be a space for adult education and arts activities, as well as benefiting children from the neighbouring primary school. A community café and open space is a place for locals to meet with space for children to play.
St Mary Mags has become a heritage, cultural and arts centre for north Paddington, while remaining a living place of worship. A new ‘heritage wing’, called Grand Junction, has been created between the church and St Mary Magdalene Primary School, which houses a lift connecting all levels, a bar, a kitchen, a volunteer room, toilets, the Benefact Trust canalside café and an education space.
Inside the church, the painted surfaces of the nave ceiling, the chancel vault and the chancel walls have all been cleaned and conserved, and the stained glass windows repaired.
The undercroft has been transformed into a flexible, accessible community and events space and is encouraging footfall in the local area, helping to revitalise the district centre, whilst connecting local neighbourhoods and developments around Paddington.
Local people have worked with an artist to design and create the tiles that sit within special recesses in the walls. Along with a timeline on the stairs, these tell the 200-year story of St Mary Mags.
It has been important to the community to be involved in the project, and on evaluation, 80% of participants said they felt more connected to the development because of this and 84% stated they’d like to take part in future volunteering projects.